Natural pain relief will be a series of posts. Each post will cover one natural pain reliever. Not everyone will be able to use every natural pain reliever due to allergic or other adverse reactions.
Although everyone experiences pain at some time, as we age, we tend to feel it more often. Joint, muscle, neck, and back pain tend to become constant companions. While there are both prescription and over the counter pain relievers available, most of them may cause serious problems over time, when used continuously. As well, in the event of a long term disaster, you may not have access to prescription or over the counter pain relievers.
Natural pain relievers are generally safe, with no long term side effects. Allergic reactions are the number one side effect, so do not use any herb or other natural substance to which you know you are allergic.
If you find one or more remedy that works well for you, most of the ingredients may be purchased in bulk for very reasonable prices. You may be able to forage some of these ingredients, if they grow locally. Many of the ingredients may be easily grown at home, either in pots or in your garden. Foraged and home grown ingredients may be dried for future use. Whether purchasing, foraging, or growing your own, make sure to stock up on what you need to make your own pain relievers.
Simple Drop Test For Allergies
If you aren’t sure whether you have an allergy to a remedy or ingredient, there is a simple test you can use. Rub a drop of a prepared remedy on the inside of your arm, at the elbow. Wait a couple of hours. If you are allergic to the remedy, you will get a rash.
To test fresh or dried individual herbs, simmer a small amount in water for 10 minutes, then allow to steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then proceed with the drop test.
To test essential oils, mix one drop of essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil, then proceed with the drop test. As a carrier oil, I recommend olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or camellia seed oil. Note this is a higher concentration than you would use in most remedies.
Caution: Any younger women, of child bearing age, should use caution when using natural remedies, as with any other medication, during pregnancy. Although generally safer than prescription or over the counter drugs, some natural remedies may not be safe for pregnant women. They, also, may not be safe for young children, so they may not be safe while breast feeding.
Is Turmeric (Curcumin) a Miracle Herb?
There is a lot of research, as well as an abundance of anecdotal evidence, leading to the belief turmeric may be about the closest thing to a “cure all” or “miracle cure” the world will ever see. If you visit PubMed and enter “turmeric” in the search bar, you’ll come up with 3,762 results, at the time of this writing. Not enough results? Enter “curcumin,” instead, and you’ll get 9,447 results.
Curcumin is the primary polyphenol found in turmeric. In very basic terms, polyphenols are compounds found in plant foods; many of which have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have been found to prevent, delay, and, in some cases, improve conditions caused by damaged molecules know as free radicals. If you are interested in a really good brief overview of what free radicals are and how antioxidants neutralize them, see Understanding Free Radicals and Antioxidants.
Curcumin Appears To Be Unparalleled In the Realm of Polyphenols
The studies I mentioned previously would indicate curcumin would be successful in treating a wide range of maladies ranging from many forms of cancer, to tumors, to protection from the effects of radiation exposure, to stimulation of the immune system, to diabetes, to breathing problems, to weight management, to having regenerative qualities. The list goes on and on, but I think that’s enough to show you how versatile it’s healing properties appear to be.
What we are interested in, in this post, are the anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties of curcumin. Curcumin has been successfully used in treating back, neck, joint, and arthritis pain. It has, also, shown to be effective in treating headaches and migraines, but may not provide pain relief as quickly as other pain relievers. If you suffer from frequent headaches, such as cluster headaches or migraines, regularly taking turmeric supplements may aid in preventing them.
Kok-Yong Chin has an article published at PubMed entitled The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis, which gives an in depth look at the effectiveness of using curcumin for treatment, including a long list of references. The conclusion of the article states:
“Osteoarthritis is a significant medical condition for the aging population worldwide. Curcumin, a NF-κB suppressor, demonstrates potential as a treatment agent for osteoarthritis, a disease with an underlying inflammatory cause. Its efficacy in reducing pain, physical function, and quality of life among osteoarthritic patients has been demonstrated in many clinical trials.”
The author does note more trials should be done, with larger sample sizes and longer treatment, to better justify and validate curcumin as an alternate treatment for osteoarthritis. The main drawbacks pointed out in the article are that, turmeric spice is “poorly absorbed and quickly excreted by the body.”
Most would agree with the latter. However, they would also agree adding plain old black pepper to anything to which you are adding turmeric spice will greatly increase the absorption of the curcumin.
Andrew Weil, MD, in his Q & A Library, answers the question “Curcumin or Turmeric?” At the end of the article, Dr. Weil states:
I frequently recommend turmeric supplements, and I believe whole turmeric is more effective than isolated curcumin for inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, tendonitis, and autoimmune conditions. Take 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric extracts (available in tablets or capsules) three times per day or as directed on the product label. Look for products standardized for 95% curcuminoids. Neither curcumin nor turmeric taken orally is well absorbed unless taken with black pepper or piperine, a constituent of black pepper responsible for its pungency. When shopping for supplements, make sure that the one you choose contains black pepper extract or piperine. (If you’re cooking with turmeric, be sure to add some black pepper to the food.). Be patient when taking turmeric supplements: the full benefits may not be apparent for eight weeks.
Please pay particular attention to the recommendation of “black pepper.” White, red, chili, cayenne, etc., pepper will not aid in the absorption of curcumin. It is the piperine found in black pepper which provides this benefit.
Dr. Weil also offers these precautions when using turmeric:
“Don’t use turmeric if you have gallstones or bile duct dysfunction. Pregnant women shouldn’t use it without their doctors’ approval. In rare cases, extended use can cause stomach upset or heartburn. Note that piperine can slow the elimination of some prescription drugs including phenytoin [Dilantin], propranolol [Inderal], and theophylline. Some evidence also suggests that curcumin can interfere with a chemotherapy agent used to treat breast cancer, so if you’re being treated for this disease, be sure to discuss the advisability of taking curcumin with your physician.”
Note Dr. Weil states pregnant women shouldn’t use turmeric without their doctor’s approval. Most sources say, although considered safe as a spice in food, it is not advised to take turmeric as a supplement when pregnant or breastfeeding. Turmeric in therapeutic doses may also decrease chances of getting pregnant.
Turmeric supplements are not advised when taking blood thinners.
Because it does act as a blood thinner, turmeric supplements should not be taken for at least two weeks prior to surgery. Make sure to disclose to your doctor you have been taking turmeric.
Turmeric supplements are not advised when suffering from congestive heart failure.
Turmeric may be beneficial in treating diabetes because it lowers blood sugar. If you are diabetic and taking medication for the diabetes, this may result in hypoglycemia. Do not use turmeric supplements if taking diabetes medication without working closely with your doctor.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, so do not take if you are allergic to ginger.
Although safe as a supplement for most everyone not falling within the above precautions, under normal circumstances, do not exceed maximum recommended doses (provided by University of Maryland Medical Center):
Therapeutic supplementation has not been studied in children, so there is no recommended dose.
Cut Root – 1.5 to 3 g per day
Dried, powdered root – 1 to 3 g per day
Standardized curcumin powder – 400 to 600 mg, 3 times per day
Fluid extract (1:1) – 30 to 90 drops per day, taken in 3 doses
Tincture (1:2) – 15 to 30 drops, 4 times per day
Note: a dropper holds about 20 drops.
How To Take Turmeric
Capsules – The easiest way to take turmeric and assure you are getting a standard dose is to take supplement capsules. This is the way I get my major dose, which I take every day. I use healthphan Turmeric Curcumin 1200mg with Bioperine – 120 count. Notice the “with Bioperine.” That is black pepper extract, in order for better absorption, as discussed above. These capsules contain a total of 1200 mg of turmeric root extract (Curcuma Longa), 100 mg of turmeric 95% curcuminoids, and 5 mg of Bioperine. The recommended use is to take 2 capsules daily. Since the concentration is so high, I take 1 capsule each morning, then take a smaller dose, in another form, in the evening. I’ve been doing this for some time, now, and it has really helped my arthritis. I’m not going to try to tell you it has completely cured my arthritis, but it has made the pain level go way down and increased mobility.
Turmeric Tea or Golden Milk – This is my most common second dose. Turmeric Tea and Golden Milk are just different names for the same thing. I drink this about 30 minutes before I go to bed. There are many recipes to be found on the internet, but I’ll share mine with you.
Sleepy Time Turmeric Tea
8 ounces milk (dairy or non-dairy, I usually use coconut milk)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
pinch of ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Stir the turmeric and collagen into the milk and heat until hot, but not boiling. Add the remaining ingredients, except the nutmeg and stir until well combined. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Besides being your second dose of turmeric, sipping this drink about 30 minutes before you go to bed will help you wind down, get to sleep more quickly, and allow you to sleep more restfully.
Warm Milk – Contrary to popular belief, warm milk does not help you fall asleep due to tryptophan. Studies have shown that milk does not raise tryptophan levels. What warm milk does do is raise your body temperature slightly, aiding you in relaxing. This is why non-dairy milk works just as well as dairy milk.
Turmeric – Besides providing your second dose of the day, turmeric is known to help you relax.
Collagen Hydrolysate – Collagen hydrolysate promotes better sleep due to the amino acid glycine. (It’s also great for your hair, skin and nails).
Vanilla – Vanilla relaxes the mind and decreases anxiety. The best way to assure you are getting pure vanilla extract is to make your own. It’s actually quite easy. I’ll show you how, below.
Honey – Honey aids in converting serotonin into melatonin.
Black Pepper – As you already know, the black pepper aids in the absorption of the turmeric.
Coconut Oil – As with the black pepper, coconut oil aids in the absorption of the turmeric.
Nutmeg – Nutmeg contains chemical compounds that act similar to tranquilizers.
See precautions above.
How To Make Pure Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Beans (about 12 vanilla beans per quart)
You’ll also need quart glass jars with tight fitting lids.
With a sharp knife, cut the vanilla beans lengthwise. You can either cut all the way through or “butterfly” them. Then cut each bean in half.
Put your cut vanilla beans in a quart jar. Fill the jar to one inch from the top with vodka. If using a jar with a metal lid, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap before putting the lid on the jar.
Put the jar in a cupboard and let it sit for at least six weeks. Shake the jar once a week.
Once you start using your extract, when you’ve removed about 1/4 of it, add more vodka. I usually draw off the first cup at the end of six weeks, bottle it, then add the vodka. A cup of vanilla extract lasts a long time, so this gives the remaining extract a good amount of time to sit before you need more. After you’ve added more vodka, let it sit at least four weeks before using.
Depending on the freshness and strength of the vanilla beans, you can do this up to 10 to 12 times before the strength of your extract starts weakening much.
Even when you get to the final vodka addition, there is no need to remove the vanilla beans. Just leave them in the jar until it’s time to make a new batch.
You don’t need expensive vodka for making extracts. The cheap stuff works just fine.
If you have access to fresh turmeric root, you can make your own tincture. I hear, in metropolitan areas, you can purchase the fresh root in health food stores, some Indian and Asian markets, and even in some supermarkets. Turmeric root is, also, supposed to be easy to grow, like ginger. Although I’ve grown ginger, I’ve never tried growing turmeric, so I really can’t say.
I have seen fresh turmeric root sold on Amazon, but I’m really not sure how “fresh” it would actually be. If you want to give it a try, here is one that seems to have pretty good reviews: Fresh Yellow Turmeric Root.
Other items you’ll need
quart glass jar with a tight fitting lid
disposable gloves, to keep the turmeric from staining your hands
nylon strainer or plastic funnel (the link is to the four size set I use) and cheese cloth
16 1-ounce amber glass dropper bottles
Wash the turmeric root well and allow to air dry. You do not need to peel the turmeric root.
I highly recommend using the gloves at this point. Grate the turmeric root and fill a one cup measuring cup. If you have a bit more than a cup, that’s okay.
Put your grated turmeric root into a quart glass jar and add the pepper. Add 2 cups of vodka. Make sure the vodka completely covers the grated turmeric root.
If your jar has a metal lid, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap, then put your lid on the jar.
Put the jar in a cupboard and let it sit for at least six weeks. Shake the jar every day or two.
Again, I recommend using gloves. Strain the extract through a fine mesh nylon strainer or through a large funnel lined with cheese cloth. When it quits dripping, if using a strainer, mash the remaining pulp with the back of a large spoon to release as much of the remaining tincture as possible. If you used a funnel and cheese cloth, pull up the ends of the cheese cloth and squeeze out as much of the remaining tincture as possible.
Use a small funnel or pipette to transfer strained extract to dropper bottles.
Dosage: 10 to 30 drops, 3 times a day
Cheap vodka will work just fine for this. The resulting tincture will have a 3 to 5 year shelf life. Everclear, if you can get it in your area, will provide a little higher concentration and the resulting tincture will last forever. Where available, Everclear is preferable for fresh herb tinctures.
Although I personally don’t recommend it, dried cut turmeric root, or even ground spice, may be used. If using dried cut root, use about 1/2 cup. Use a rounded 1/4 cup of ground spice. Ground spice is very difficult to adequately strain.
See precautions above.
Place turmeric powder and water in a small sauce pan and heat over low heat until you have a thick paste. Add the pepper and oil. Mix well. Remove from heat. Allow to cool before using.
Will last 2 to 3 weeks in refrigerator.
See precautions above.
To use turmeric paste:
Take 1/2 teaspoon 3 to 4 times per day.
You can add it to a spoonful of honey, if you don’t like the taste.
You can use the paste to make a simple turmeric tea/golden milk. Mix 1/2 teaspoon into 1 cup warm dairy or non dairy milk.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to a cup of hot tea (especially good with a spicy tea, like chai tea).
Add 1/2 teaspoon to hot soup.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to your favorite smoothie.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to just about anything that can use a bit of spice.
Mostly for colds, flu, and bacterial and viral infections, but may be taken daily as an anti-inflammatory.
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Place in an airtight container, in the refrigerator. Will last about 2 weeks.
At first sign of cold or flu, take 1 tablespoon every hour, during waking hours. The second day, take 2 teaspoons every two hours. The third day, take 2 teaspoons every three hours. On the fourth day and beyond, until symptoms have subsided, take 1 teaspoon every three to four hours.
Although studies have shown up to 8,000 mg of turmeric may be taken daily, you probably won’t want to take turmeric supplements, in other forms, during the first three days. From the fourth day on, you can take your usual supplements, as well as the honey mixture.
One tablespoon would be a single dose as a supplement.
See precautions above.
As you can see, you can take therapeutic doses of turmeric in a number of ways. You can, also, mix the ways you take your doses. If you suffer from inflammatory disease and you don’t have any conditions that would prevent you from using turmeric, I highly suggest giving it a try. Just remember, it may take a few weeks before you really start feeling the results, even though it is already working on the inflammation, so don’t give up on this remedy before you really give it a chance.